Hebridean community of Ulva bids for right to buy island

A small Hebridean community is calling on the Scottish Government to give people a chance to buy the island where they live.

The community of Ulva fighting for the chance to control their own destiny . Picture: Moira Kerr

The once-thriving population of Ulva, off the west coast of Mull, has dwindled to six including present laird Jamie Howard, who has decided to sell the island his family has owned for more than 70 years.

Potential buyers from all over Europe have expressed an interest in the property, which was put on the market this summer for offers over £4.25 million. But now the for sale signs are down pending a government decision on North West Mull Community Woodland Company’s application, requesting time to prepare a local buyout bid.

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Barry George, who is in his 50s and has lived on Ulva for 21 years, said: “It’s quite unsettling thinking about what happens next, because this is the only roof I have, I have nothing else.”

Mr George, who now runs the community bus, was originally given the chance to stay on Ulva when he worked for a local fish farm, which leased homes for workers.

He said: “I remember when every single house was occupied, when I came here all the houses were full and there were children.

“But now we have houses stood empty. With a community buyout, our priority would be to repopulate the island. I am sure we could get people to come here.”

North West Mull Community Woodland Company, which looks after the interests of remote areas including Ulva, has applied to the Scottish Government for the go-ahead to prepare a community buyout bid.

John Addy, a director, said: “Back in the 1840s, before the Clearances, the population of Ulva was 570. We are not suggesting that we could go back to that but we are thinking of, in 20 years, perhaps we could manage 30 people working there.”

The deadline for Mr Howard to lodge comments with the government on the community’s wish to buy Ulva is 5pm today.

Last night he said: “It would be inappropriate for me to comment at the present time.”

Rebecca Munro, 30, who lives on Ulva with her husband Rhuri, 34, and their two young children, rents and runs the island’s Boathouse restaurant.

She said a community buyout would give the people of Ulva and North West Mull a chance to renovate homes and boost the island’s population and local tourism.